Thinking About Suing Someone? Read This First.
Feb. 1, 2017
Suing Someone Is Not Just Stressful for The Person Being Sued.
There’s no denying that personal injury lawsuits are stressful, and not just for the party that is being sued. When you sue someone who injured you because of their negligence, that person has a right to defend themselves, and that gives them (and their attorney) the right to pry into your personal and private life, including your family, friends, social media, criminal history, etc. Even though in reality it’s not personal (it’s just good defense strategy after all), it is usually pretty hard not to take personal. So if you're thinking about suing someone, make sure you have pretty thick skin, because the proverbial crap is about to hit the fan.
Criminal, Driving, and Legal History:
In a personal injury case the negligent person is almost always represented by an insurance company and attorneys hired by the insurance company. Most insurance companies have access to enormous databases of personal information, including your criminal and driving history, as well as previous legal actions (like bankruptcies, etc) and previous insurance claims. File a similar insurance claim 20 years ago with a different insurance company? Chances are they know about it. Got in an accident 10 years ago? Again, they probably know about it. While most of this stuff may not be that relevant to your case, crimes involving dishonesty and untrustworthiness (i.e. fraud, perjury, etc) may be used against you at your trial.
If you are claiming that your personal injuries have caused you to miss work and lose income, or make work more difficult, then your work history and employment records (including tax returns and any disciplinary action) may have to be disclosed to the other side. Sometimes this also means exposing your supervisors and co-workers to inconvenient and annoying interrogation. Since putting your bosses and supervisors through this inconvenience may affect your future job security, it’s always a good idea to talk to your attorney about the pros and cons of making a claim for lost wages in the first place.
Yes, even your sex life might be relevant. For example, if the pain from your injuries makes having sex more painful or harder to enjoy, and you want to be compensated for that, then you better be comfortable talking about all the nitty-gritty details.
Facebook and Other Social Media Profiles:
More and more courts are allowing the insurance company attorneys to gain access to your social media profiles, even when you have them set to “private.” So be careful about what you post online, because it may be used against you down the road.
Friends and Family:
If you have a friend, family, or loved ones that have known you for years and can help testify at trial on your behalf, you will have to disclose them to the other side before trial. This gives the other party’s attorney a chance to interrogate or interview them before trial. The other side may also start digging into their past looking for ways to discredit them. So even though it can be very helpful to your case to have friends and family testify on your behalf, you want to make sure that these people are willing, if necessary, to have a little dirt thrown their way.
Previous Similar Injuries and Conditions:
This one is pretty obvious. For example, if you claim you injured your neck in an accident, you generally must give the other side any medical records for any prior treatment of your neck. You usually don't have to provide information or records for the treatment of unrelated injuries, diseases, or conditions though.
Silver Lining: Not Every Private or Sensitive Document Becomes Public Record
It’s important to remember that just because you (or your attorney) provide some document or information to the other person’s insurance company and their attorneys during the lawsuit does not mean that it automatically becomes public record or gets admitted into evidence at trial. Lots of information and documents are exchanged between the parties during a lawsuit, but most of that information and evidence remains confidential and stays between the parties to the lawsuit only. In order to be used at your trial (thus becoming public record), the document or piece of evidence must be first determined by the Judge to be authentic, relevant, not confusing or misleading, not hearsay, and not objectionable on some other grounds. This is a pretty stringent test and it keeps most of the less relevant and less trustworthy evidence out of your trial.
So while the other side will dig deep into your personal and private life, a good attorney will be able to keep most of this stuff private and out of the public record.
Richard Gama is an award-winning trial lawyer in Aurora Colorado who specializes in personal injury cases. If you have questions or simply want to discuss your case, he is happy to talk to you at no charge, whether you decide to hire him or not.